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House Passes Evidence-Based Policy Bill

In the midst of bitter tax and healthcare debates, at least one bipartisan bill seems to be gathering steam on the Hill: the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act.

The bill—intended to begin implementing recommendations on federal data research and privacy by a Congressionally appointed committee—passed the full House on Wednesday, after 45 minutes of debate and a strong push from sponsor Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. A sister bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has not yet been voted out of the Senate's governmental affairs committee.

There's good reason for education researchers to watch its progress. It introduces strong privacy protections for personally identifiable information in federal databases, but it also makes it clear that aside from items explicitly prohibited, federal agencies should work to share data to help researchers and policymakers study and build evidence for policies and programs.  

Daniel Castro, director of the Center on Data Innovation, lauded the bill's focus on building infrastructure for data sharing: "The federal government controls an enormous supply of valuable data. These datasets exist because of taxpayer support for government operations, so they should freely available to the public. This, in turn, would encourage innovation, spur economic growth, increase government transparency, and power new tools and services to address some of the country's most pressing economic and social challenges," he said in a statement.

Michele Jolin, co-founder of the advocacy group Results for America, argued in favor of the bill's requirement that every federal agency appoint a "chief evaluation officer" and set annual plans to use federal data to build evidence systemically. 

You can see more details on the bill here


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